Review of “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie

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Before reading The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, I expected it to be simple and juvenile (after all, it’s YA, right?). I was pleasantly surprised.

Junior’s struggle to become independent and establish his own identity while also fitting in with both his tribe and his white friends at school is something everyone can empathize with. I have frequently found myself caught between my family’s belief system and what I personally believe is right. Although my choice to register as a Democrat while my parents are Republicans is vastly different (and less important) than Junior’s “part-time Indian” dilemma, I was able to connect the book to my own personal life experiences, and this is something that I always value while reading.

Alexie is unafraid to address very important issues. In addition to the detailing the struggles of Junior (addressing topics such as masturbation/sexuality, talking to girls, etc.), Alexie also addresses more political issues related to Native Americans, such as alcoholism, poverty on the reservation, racial discrimination, lack of opportunity and job availability, etc. The book is deceptively simple. It is a small book that addresses many important issues, and I can’t believe Alexie was able to do this and still make the book so enjoyable and appropriate for young readers.

Although the novel addresses very serious issues, it somehow manages to still be funny. Some of the situations in the novel are genuinely funny, while others are the kind of funny that makes you regret you ever laughed. It’s the kind of funny that makes you feel ashamed for laughing. The story is told from the perspective of Junior, who is a genuinely funny character, but some of the humor seems to be a way that Junior attempts to cope with his situation. In this sense, the humor makes the book much more serious.

As a future teacher, I would love to use this book in the classroom. It is fresh and unique, and I think that it addresses many topics that would be relevant to high school students. In high school, everyone struggles to figure out who they are and establish their own identity. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian provides an important perspective of this topic. It also addresses many other topics and situations that would benefit high school students (and all other readers in general).

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Review of “The Way to Rainy Mountain” and “Backwards & Forwards”

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Hello all,

It has been over a week since my last post. My schedule grows increasingly more complicated. Anyway, I have recently finished reading two short books (both for class). The first is Backwards & Forwards by David Ball, and the other is The Way to Rainy Mountain by N. Scott Momaday. I loved The Way to Rainy Mountain much more than the Ball novel, so I will save the best for last.

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Backwards & Forwards was an assigned reading for my theater class. The book is helpful for anyone interested in producing or analyzing plays. Ball explains the function of almost every aspect of the play, and uses language that even a theater beginner can understand. He also frequently references Hamlet for examples, so if you are a fan of Hamlet, this book might help you view the play from a new perspective. I was personally not very excited about this book. I felt that the writing was rather dry, and Ball seemed to be kind of an unlikeable guy. His personality bled through the book unpleasantly; he seemed to constantly say things like “if you can’t understand this (minor and subtle aspect of the play), you shouldn’t be in theater!” The book was also quite short; I think it was under 100 pages (thankfully). I would much rather have just read Hamlet (I haven’t yet, but I’m dying to!).

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The Way to Rainy Mountain is an interesting book. It is simultaneously a collection of Kiowa (Native American peoples) myths and folktales, Momaday’s own personal experiences, and an anthropological study of the Kiowa culture. The novel also includes illustrations by Al Momaday, N. Scott Momaday’s father. Momaday creatively combines these aspects of the novel into a short, palatable read that I couldn’t put down. The book is divided up into small sections, with every two pages constituting one “section.” On the left page, the author includes a Kiowa folktale/myth. On the right page, the author includes a one-paragraph anthropological analysis on one aspect of Kiowa culture/history, and another paragraph retelling one of the author’s own memories of his childhood (in relation to the Kiowa people). I am a Folk Studies minor, and am currently taking an anthropology class. Needless to say, I loved reading the Kiowa myths and folktales, and I was also interested in the anthropological analyses. Momaday’s short personal narratives were well-written and engaging, and made the culture feel much more real. If you are interested in Native American culture, I would highly suggest you pick up this book.

Momaday also won the Pulitzer Prize for his novel House Made of Dawn. It has just landed itself on my reading list.

I plan to finish The Great Gatsby tomorrow or Thursday, and will post a review by this weekend. I am also debating about whether or not I want to review A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I read it two weeks ago for my theater class, but I figured that it would be a pointless review. I might save it for when I get behind on reading.

Enjoy the rest of your week!
-C